A good friend of mine has cancer. We went to school together. At 43 the ovarian cancer we thought she was winning against a few years ago has now spread to her bowels. At 43 I am trying to have an IVF baby. The whole IVF idea was one she conceived at lunch in my backyard prior to her illness. I said I would try if she promised to be in delivery room. It was a deal.
Now we are both struggling to keep the deal. I need to hurry up and fall pregnant and she needs to slow down and make sure she is around.
We have both seen many doctors in the last year. We have both long lost our dignity and surrendered ourselves to medical examinations that are sometimes painful and that we wouldn’t wish on anyone else. We have both learned many lessons about being a patient and about being a doctor. Here are a few:
Being a patient
• Know your body as best as your can and if you don’t know it - start to know it. For an IVF patient that means you need to write everything down, dates of your period, characteristics of your period, dates you starting taking vitamins, dates you went to acupuncture or yoga. Write it down and see if there is any pattern. Write it down so you can be a better patient.
• Read as at least one bit of relevant material. There are many websites that promise that I can conceive easily and my friend’s cancer will go into remission … if we subscribe. Read critically.
• Consider taking vitamins and adopting alternative practices that will make you healthier and will support you on your journey. Decide what your regime is and stick to it (and of course write it down).
• Learn about the top 3 blood tests that will be performed on you routinely. Why are they done and what do they mean? If you have a supportive general practitioner, you may want to consider getting your top 3 blood tests done on a monthly basis. It will increase your knowledge of your body.
• If you don’t like your IVF doctor, be brave and change doctors (I know it is difficult).
• Build up your karma bank, not for yourself, but for your child.
• Manage your expectations.
• Be open to options, for example, the egg donor option. If you love your partner or husband you will be able to overcome this mental obstacle. Appreciate that there are different parts to being a mother, a genetic mother, biological and social mother. You will be the child’s biological and social mother and anyway children aren’t ours to own or control. We have them to nurture and guide and enjoy, all the time respecting that they are individuals.
Being a doctor
• We are in your hands. We know you can do the job because you are where you are. Use your emotional intelligence in dealing with us and not only your general IQ.
• We carry your every word. We analyze it, discuss it with our friends. We carry it all day. It affects us. A glib response or a defeatist attitude from you reverberates through our community.
• We will judge you on your emotional intelligence before we consider your IQ.
Shanti Berggren, Australia